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Baja Fest Bows Pic Lineup

Mexican event focuses on North American indies

Mixing indie, industry and Mexican auteur cool, the Baja Intl. Film Festival unveiled its two feature lineups Friday with a sophomore edition aimed at bridging industries across Mexico, Canada and the U.S.

“We are finally closing the gap on three film industries that at have times been so disparate,” said first-time fest director Alonso Aguilar in a phone interview.

Running Nov. 13-16 in Los Cabos, both the regional and domestic competitions are equal opportunity for documentary and fiction.

The Los Cabos competition pulls heavily from the U.S. indie circuit for its eight slots that include Slamdance winner “The Dirties” from Matthew Johnson, Matthew Porterfield’s “I Used to Be Darker,” which bowed at Sundance, and “Short Term 12,” pictured above, from Destin Cretton, from the showcase at this year’s SXSW.

And while the lineup has already seen heavy festival rotation, it is noteworthy how rarely films from those festivals actually make it to Mexico.

There are only two competition entries with a Mexican producer on board: Aaron Fernandez’s “Las horas muertas” (The Empty Hours) and the U.K. co-prod “Who Is Dayani Cristal,” from Marc Silver.

In fact, there as many French-language titles as Spanish ones in the Los Cabos competition (Cannes player “Sarah Prefers to Run” from Chloe Robichaud, for example).

Nevertheless, festival director Aguilar assures that Baja is all about bringing Mexico closer to the industry up north, citing the festival’s works-in-progress competition – the only one anywhere that focuses exclusively on Mexican fare.

“The spirit of the festival is about giving Mexican filmmakers useful tools … for them to be able to take advantage of (industry) coming to Baja. So that they can emerge with new allies, with people that are normally inaccessible,” said Aguilar, touting the large number of distributors and talent and sales agents set to arrive from the U.S. and Canada.

The second lineup, dubbed Mexico First, takes on first- or second-time helmers, previously the domain of the Morelia Film Festival, which only this year opened its competition to more experienced directors.

Yet there is only marginal crossover with Morelia’s lineup in the section, which includes three world preems: “Filosofia natural del amor” (The Natural Philosophy of Love), from Sebastian Hiriart, whose freshman pic, “A tiro de piedra,” was underappreciated; “Bering : Equilibrio y Resistencia,” the first feature effort from Lourdes Grobet, a well-established figure in Mexico’s photography scene; and newcomer Katina Medina Mora’s drama “LuTo.”

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